Reid tries to explain ‘smell the tourists’ comment


Washington — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid defended himself Wednesday over a comment that tourists to the Capitol sometimes smell.

Turns out many people weren’t amused.

eTN Chatroom: Discuss with readers from around the world:

The Nevada Democrat has been attacked on blogs, editorial pages and letters to the editor since his remark last week: “In the summertime, because of the high humidity and how hot it gets here, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol.”

His comment came during the opening ceremony for the new Capitol Visitor Center.

In response, an offended letter-writer to Reid’s hometown Las Vegas Review-Journal declared: “You, Sen. Reid, are the one who stinks.”

Without directly apologizing, Reid sought to explain himself in his own letter to the Review-Journal on Wednesday.

“Much has been made of my comments at the opening of the Capitol Visitors Center,” Reid wrote. “Anyone who took the time to watch my statement or read it in full knows the point I was making: I’m always pleased when the Capitol is filled with citizens eager to learn about our country’s great history and the work we do in that historic building.”

Reid, who’s gearing up for re-election in 2010, did say as much in his full remarks at the visitors center opening. But he probably should have stopped there.

Indeed, he prefaced his digression on the malodorous tourists with the observation that: “My staff has always said don’t say this, but I’m going to say it again, because it’s so descriptive.”

In his letter Wednesday, Reid wrote that with the new center offering an indoor refuge along with historical exhibits, “The days of freezing in the cold and sweating in Washington’s humidity while waiting to enter the Capitol are over.”